How Much Does a Land Survey Cost?
Looking to buy, sell, or refinance your property? You’ll need a land survey to make sure you know exactly where your property boundaries are. Land survey costs range between $346 to $680, with an average of $504.
- Typical Range: $346 to $680
- National Average: $504
Determining property lines can help prevent future animosity by ensuring that you or your neighbors don’t erect a fence or other structure on the wrong side of the line. It’s also helpful to determine who’s responsible for tree removal or property maintenance. Homeowners can define their property lines by getting a land survey done. This legal document can describe property boundaries, geographic features, topography, and even property corners using GPS coordinates. Land survey costs range between $346 and $680, with an average of $504. The size of the property and the complexity of the terrain and existing boundaries will determine the final cost. Learn all about land survey costs here.
Factors in Calculating Land Survey Cost
The type of lot, along with its size, location, terrain, and accessibility, influences land survey cost. Previous land surveys can help reduce the cost since the land surveyor can review previous documentation. Survey costs include the time the land surveyor spends evaluating the property on-site, researching property or geographic factors, and creating the report. According to HomeAdvisor, expect to pay an average of $50 to $500 per acre for land survey costs.
Lot Type, Size, Shape, and Age
Most lawns in the U.S. are approximately one-fifth of an acre. The average reported costs for surveying these lots range from $400 to $700. If the lot is part of a developed subdivision and a standard rectangle or square shape, you’ll likely pay on the lower end of the scale since it’s simpler to evaluate. New, uncleared, or odd-shaped lots will cost more, especially if they’re several acres. The first property survey on a plot will start from scratch and take longer to complete. Additionally, if the property has several points to establish, more time is needed to identify those boundaries correctly.
Your location will also affect land survey costs. If a land surveyor needs to travel some distance to get to your property, you’ll likely pay extra for the associated travel fees. A land survey cost is higher for metropolitan areas due to demand and the higher cost of living.
Terrain and Accessibility
Terrain and accessibility are two significant factors in determining land survey costs. Let’s say that you are looking to purchase a property that isn’t cleared and has extensive property rights. The land surveyor will have to traverse the entire property to locate and record every major artificial and natural feature and boundary point. A rocky or densely wooded area will take time to work through. On the other hand, if you’re having your existing property surveyed and you’ve made several landscaping improvements or added structures, it will also take some time. The surveyor will need to add any features that are near property boundaries and establish their proper location. Working around any obstacles always costs more.
Research and Travel Time
Having a property surveyed that’s some distance from the land surveyor will cost more since you’ll be responsible for covering the travel fees. Search for “land surveyor near me” to get a quote that includes travel time to your property. Additionally, land survey costs are higher if the land surveyor has to do significant research to identify the boundaries. This is often the case when it’s a first-time survey or an old property with lost documents. If you know where the original property markers are, be sure to point them out to assist the surveyor. Providing plat maps for neighboring properties and personal property deeds can also help the surveyor get started.
Time of Year
You can save on the cost of a land survey by hiring a land surveyor at the right time of year. If your property is heavily wooded with deciduous trees, hire the surveyor in the season when the leaves have fallen to allow a better line of sight. On the other hand, if your property is a wide-open space, spring or summer may be best so the surveyor can easily identify any property markers when they aren’t covered by snow.
Type of Survey Required
There is more than one kind of land survey available. Depending on what your bank, buyer, or builder requires, you could ask for a mortgage, boundary, subdivision, or another kind of survey. Each comes with its own associated costs and purposes but has an average price of $500.
Additional Costs and Considerations
When budgeting for land survey costs, consider a few less common factors that may apply to your situation. A survey may need a boundary line adjustment, or you may find that you can save on the cost of a new survey by having a recent one recertified.
Boundary Line Adjustments
There are times a boundary line needs adjusting. After the surveyor has established the boundaries of your property, they may need to correct an inaccurate line. This is usually added to the cost at a rate of $20 to $25 per hour. Alternatively, if you sell a portion of your property, you’ll need a land surveyor to re-establish your new property line and update the plat map. This is a more expensive cost with an average of $800 to $1,200 and includes a full survey.
Tree Survey Cost
If you have a property with many trees, you may want to plot out where all the trees are located and the types of trees growing on your property. This is beneficial to assess if trees have suddenly died in certain areas or if they’ve been removed. If the terrain is challenging to get through, this could cost up to $6,000, but a survey of a simple plot of land could cost only $200.
In most cases, a land survey should be accurate for 5 to 10 years. To avoid additional land survey costs, you could request a recent land survey to be recertified. This eliminates the need for a complete survey and reduces costs by 50 percent or more.
Land Survey Cost: Types of Land Surveys
Boundary surveys are the most commonly requested land survey, but you may need to request a topographic, mortgage, fencing, or ALTA survey. You could also request a simple staked site survey or get an updated plot map done. Here are the most common land surveys and their associated costs.
A boundary survey is the standard method for determining where a plot’s legal boundaries exist. You could pay between $100 and $600 for a boundary survey. Each state has different requirements, but it’s in your best interest to know precisely how much land you’re purchasing if you’re buying a house. Sellers should also be interested in a boundary survey since it ensures they can sell the property, since it allows them to price their property correctly and make sure they’re listing it for what it’s worth.
A topographic survey is used when an area of land is being assessed for development, whether commercially or privately. It could be required by local authorities, engineers, or architects. The average cost of a topographic survey is $500 to $1,200 for lots under 10,000 square feet. Any artificial or natural features like rocks, streams, trees, elevations, fences, or buildings are recorded.
Occasionally, you may need to request a mortgage survey. This is a reasonably straightforward survey that locates the property boundaries and any buildings on the lot. It usually costs $500 to complete. If you’re looking to buy extended title insurance, a lender may require a mortgage survey as part of the approval process.
Survey for Fencing
When building a fence, It’s essential to ensure you’re building it along the correct property line. If a fence already exists, but its location is in question, then a fence survey is the best choice. A land surveyor will check for property lines, plat maps, and original markers to discover whether a fence is in the right place. A new construction project usually has the original stakes intact, but it may be worth double-checking if there’s any question. It costs $250 to $1,000 on average for a fence survey.
If you’re looking to purchase or build on existing property for commercial purposes, you’ll be required to obtain an American Land Title Association (ALTA) survey. Surveyors will test soil composition, check floodplains, record topography, and note any features like utilities or septic tanks. Some homeowners may prefer to get an ALTA survey if they’re building a large house on terrain that could be unstable. ALTA land survey costs range between $2,000 and $3,000 and can take several months to complete.
New Construction Survey Cost
A new construction project is one of the larger survey projects since a surveyor is usually starting from scratch. A comprehensive survey plan is put together to ensure each party (builder, engineer, lender, municipality) has the information needed to handle topography, boundaries, stakes, and location. New construction land survey costs usually range between $1,000 and $2,000.
Developers use subdivision surveys to determine individual plots of land. After they’ve determined how much is an acre of land, they’ll figure out the best acreage per parcel and request a survey to plan and designate each parcel. If you’re in an existing subdivision and your land crosses in front of a neighbor’s driveway, your neighbor may be granted rights of access as a result of a land subdivision survey. Expect to pay $300 to $400 for subdivision surveys depending on how many buildings or lots are included.
This is a high-tech method for determining an accurate 3D rendering of your house and helps determine how much space is available on the property if an additional structure is planned. Land surveyors use lasers to render a 3D model of the house—both inside and outside. The report should also indicate the location of any structure in relation to utility lines, walls, or property boundaries. This survey usually costs $800 to $1,200.
Land surveyors are used during a new construction project to designate the boundaries of a new plot by staking out the corners. They also mark where sidewalks, buildings, or roads will be. If your home has numerous corners or indentations, it will take longer and cost more to stake the site. Staking a site costs $200 to $500 on average and is similar to a boundary survey.
A plot plan is sometimes mistaken for a plat survey; however, a plot plan only designates structures and buildings that do or will exist on the property. These plans are less exact than a plat survey and cannot be used as a legal document as a plat survey can. You can get a plot plan for $75 to $200.
Any structure or feature you want to add that’s planned close to a presumed boundary line should have a property assessment done first. If you plan to build a pool, shed, or driveway, this could prevent a problem down the road. A survey will also alert you to any local encroachment regulations about keeping structures a certain distance away from boundaries.
Land Survey Cost: Do I Need a Land Survey?
It can seem like a hassle to hire a survey company, but paying a small fee for land survey costs up front can save you from potential legal fees in the future. In certain situations, it’s even required to get a land survey done before you can move forward with a project or financing. Here are the top reasons you need a land survey.
Selling a house is a major legal transaction. If you don’t have documentation to back up your claims about the exact property dimensions, you could face legal disputes later on from an unhappy buyer. In some cases, a land survey could reveal that you own more land than you thought, which means you could sell the house at a higher price. Having proof that your property is the size you say will instill confidence in your buyer that they’re getting a fair deal.
Buying a property is one of the most significant transactions in life, so you want to know exactly what you’re getting. A key benefit to getting a property survey first is that it will expose any existing encroachments, easements, or access rights. You want to know ahead of time if your neighbor has water rights or if their driveway crosses your land to avoid legal disputes later.
Avoid extra construction costs by making sure you’re building structures or features along the legal boundary. It’s never fun to have to tear out a shed or pergola and move it when you could have gotten a survey done first and avoid the hassle. A surveyor can work with your contractor to make sure the pergola or shed is placed correctly.
Fences or Additions
The same problem applies here to fences or any additions. Without being sure of the legal boundary, you could wind up in legal hot water for building a structure that encroaches on your neighbor’s property. Even if you have a good relationship with your neighbor now, things could change if they want to build a structure or if they sell the house and find they have less property value.
Any kind of subdividing, whether by a developer or a private owner selling portions of his own land, will require a licensed surveyor to assess the property and create new boundaries. Easements, titles, planning restrictions, and utilities are all considered to make sure each plot is legally defined.
If you haven’t had a land survey done in several years and you’re looking to refinance your home or property loan, the lender may require you to complete a new survey. Since loans are based on the property’s value, lenders only like to loan the exact amount of money, so having an updated survey helps ensure your property value is accurate.
Obtaining an Elevation Certificate
Some homes are built in high-risk areas like on a floodplain or at a lower elevation. Your homeowners insurance will likely request an elevation certificate from a licensed surveyor before setting your flood insurance premium if one is required. The insurance company needs all the information about the flood risks in your location.
Finding or Settling Property Lines
No matter how sure you are about your property lines, your neighbor could be just as confident with a different opinion. Over time, markers could be moved or lost, so it’s difficult to know for certain. Getting a boundary survey is the best way to settle disputes about property lines since it’s a legal document outlining the boundaries using original documents.
Before digging on your property, it’s best to make sure you know where any buried utility lines are. Assessing your property will help you know where utilities are located. Contractors will also need this information for new construction projects or extensive renovations.
Land Survey Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
It’s easy to do your own quick assessment of how big your property or structures are using a measuring tape and lasers, but your findings won’t hold up in a legal dispute. Since property boundaries are tied to high-value assets, only licensed surveyors can conduct surveys to establish the value and size of your land. A DIY survey will not qualify for use in a property sale, and it likely won’t include any records of easements or rights-of-way.
Some surveys require extensive research and expertise in geologic principles. Licensed surveyors complete schooling and training to be legally certified as land surveyors. This also means the legal burden is on them. If you need to use a property survey in a court of law, the surveyor is liable for an inaccurate assessment, not you. Land survey costs are simply one of the necessities of dealing with property assets, and leaving the complicated job to an expert is the best choice.
How to Save Money on Land Survey Cost
Land survey costs are fairly standard across the board in the sense that prices are influenced by a similar number of factors no matter where you’re located. Since DIY-ing your own legal land survey is out of the question, consider these ideas for saving money on land survey costs.
- Shop around to obtain as many quotes as you can. Be sure to ask about any add-on fees, like those for travel, research, and terrain.
- Try to request a land survey at the cheapest time of year for your location.
- Ask your real estate agent for a surveyor they recommend. They may offer a referral discount.
- Obtain as many documents about your property as possible ahead of time, and provide the surveyor with a copy of them.
- Share as much information about the property as possible to save the surveyor time.
- Remove as many obstructions as possible to make it easier for the surveyor to get to your property boundaries.
- Ask if less costly recertification will provide the information you need rather than paying for a new survey.
- Only request the kind of survey you actually need, not the most extensive one.
Questions to Ask About Land Survey Cost
Property surveys can be a complex task for some property owners. Always make sure the surveyor is licensed and insured in your state before hiring to avoid any problems later on. Asking these other questions ahead of time will help avoid miscommunication and achieve the desired results without wasting money.
- Do you have references I can speak with?
- What kind of survey do I need if I’m trying to determine existing property lines?
- Have you completed this kind of survey before?
- How do you determine the cost for this survey?
- How much are your travel fees?
- What other add-on charges will be included for this kind of survey?
- What’s the estimated cost, and can I see a line-item quote?
- Do you offer any seasonal discounts?
- How many employees will you send on this project, and how experienced are they?
- How long will this job take?
- When can you start?
- What documents will I receive with this survey?
- Will you notify me of any local laws about encroachment?
- What do you recommend as the next steps if you discover a property boundary error?
Several land survey options are available, so you want to make sure you choose the right one for your needs while staying within your budget. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions to help guide the process.
Q. Can I do my own property survey?
You can complete your own surveys when you measure how much space you have to build a deck or patio. There’s certainly no law against checking how much space you have within your own property. What you can’t do is measure your own property and use those findings as legal documents. Since property is an expensive asset, only licensed professionals can conduct legal surveys to determine legal boundaries that affect property value. Professional surveyors are also skilled and trained at evaluating difficult terrain for construction projects as requested by engineers and lenders.
Q. What does a land survey include?
It depends on the kind of land survey you choose. Most homeowners need a boundary survey that identifies the exact locations of their boundaries with a legal description. They’ll also include any right-of-way access or other easements. More extensive surveys like topography or ALTA surveys assess the terrain, ground stability, natural and manufactured features, and property rights. Do an online search for a “survey company near me,” and talk with a pro to find out which kind of survey best suits your needs.
Q. Is a land survey more expensive for a bigger plot of land?
In general, yes. It costs anywhere from $50 to $500 per acre to conduct a survey, but that’s also dependent on how complex the terrain is. Some surveyors may charge a flat fee for a home in a standard-size subdivision, but any unusual or large properties will cost more to survey.